Guatemalan security forces faced thousands of Honduran migrants on Sunday, mostly as they tried to prevent the largest trailer in years from reaching the United States, where they would present an immediate test for Joe Biden’s immigration policy.
Dramatic images shared on social media showed a crowd of migrants crossing five lines of soldiers in Vado Hondo, Chiquimula, in eastern Guatemala, near the border with Honduras.
The soldiers turned on the crowd with batons and sticks, eventually forcing them to back down. Officials say they tried to join an earlier group of migrants who had made further progress.
In Mexico, the National Guard and other security forces had already started to deploy en masse in preparation for the arrival of the caravan.
As many as 9,000 people crossed the border with Guatemala in the early hours of Saturday, making it one of the largest caravans since large groups began traveling north in 2018 and 2019.
The number of potential migrants increased after Honduras was devastated in November by two powerful hurricanes, Eta and Iota, the most severe natural disasters to hit the county in two decades. They triggered floods and landslides in what was already one of the region’s poorest countries, killing at least 94 people and affecting some 4,000 people.
Guatemalan authorities said the new caravan, which left the town of San Pedro Sula in stages last week, still numbers at least 6,000 after some people returned, but many potential migrants say they have not. working to get home.
Injuries have been reported but no immediate details. The government of President Alejandro Giammattei has made it clear that it will not let migrants pass and called on Honduras to “contain the mass exodus of its people”. The government published a two-week prevention report last Thursday, banning large gatherings in certain areas as the caravan approaches.
“The Guatemalan authorities reiterate this. . . we encourage migration only when it is safe, orderly and regular and will continue to speak out against any action that encourages irregular migrationThe government said in a statement.
At the request of US President Donald Trump, Mexican and Guatemalan authorities clamped down on migrant flows, but many Central Americans hoped the situation would change after Mr. Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
He is committed to reverse Mr. Trump’s policies.
“There will be a lot of cautious hindsight,” said a member of the US transition team to the FT. “No one is interested in a sudden movement that would send the signal that the time is right.”
The Biden administration, which will seek to rebuild asylum processes at the U.S. border dismantled under Mr. Trump, will also need to assess whether to grant so-called temporary protection status to Hondurans and other Central Americans affected by hurricanes, the transition team member said. .
Mark Morgan, Acting Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection, praised Guatemala for its support “The regional alliance committed to safe, orderly and legal migration” and warned of the risks of Covid-19.
“As a caravan of migrants tries to reach Mexico and the United States under the direction of irresponsible coordinators, our countries have a total of 25 million cases of Covid-19 and 500,000 deaths – and infections are increasing! Covid is a silent killer and the number of sick migrants will only increaseHe tweeted.